Transforming My Life

one day at a time


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The Best Gifts to Say I Love You

IMG_0698Well, Valentine’s Day is only a few days away.  Every time I walk into a grocery store, I am tempted to buy roses or go down the chocolate aisle.   I love chocolate hearts –  I can’t resist buying those pretty little ones all wrapped in the silver, pink and red foil.  The Dove dark chocolate ones with the antioxidants make me feel like I’m eating something semi-healthy – or at least that’s what I try to tell myself.

Roses, candy hearts, love letters, gifts ….

All lead me to think about love.

“Love” is a word we carelessly throw around all the time, not consciously thinking about what it really means to us, let alone defining how we want to live, give, and receive love.

Learning what it means to love others really is a big deal.  We need to give this subject the attention it deserves.  Love is at the core of everything good in life.  It is our greatest need.  It is what connects us.  Each one of us longs to know we are loved.  When we take the time to look around, every creation is soaked in love.

Which leads me to a question you may want to think about, especially this Valentine’s Day, and everyday –

If you were to pick three ways to show someone you love them, what would they be?

If you are wondering why you lack that loving feeling, I challenge you to begin to change one vital thing –

Make some changes in the way you listen.

I know!  It seems pretty simple doesn’t it?  Contrary to how easy it seems, learning to really listen is like learning a new language.  It is not easy to do.

Learning how to listen to someone you love, is the greatest gift you can possibly give –  whether it be your spouse, your children or another significant someone in your life.

We all yearn to matter, to be heard, understood, valued, and accepted.  And yet, we often fail in our attempts to love others for who they are.  Instead, it becomes about us.  Rather than the conversations drawing us closer together they can become divisive.  When people say something we don’t like, conversations can become about who is right and who is wrong.  Before you know it we are yelling or off in separate parts of the house stewing over what is wrong with our parenting, or wishing we hadn’t married this person.  We desperately want to change or fix them.  And sadly, we miss out, because we didn’t take the time to get outside of ourselves enough to listen to what the other person was trying to say to us.

If you desire to radically transform a relationship with someone who matters to you, go to school on how to listen.

Here are three powerful ways to listen, that says,  “I love you”. 

1.  Listening with Words of Understanding.

I say I love you when I seek to understand where someone else is coming from.  Another way I think of this, is to practice being curious about someone else.

Being curious in order to better understand, says, “Tell me more.”  Seeking to understand reflects back what it hears.  “Wow, I hear you had a bad day.”  “That must have hurt.”

I don’t assume I know what you are saying.  I don’t jump in to give you advice, at least not yet.

I seek to understand first by creating a listening space for you and I keep my mouth shut.

Listening with understanding requires I slow down, am open-minded, rather than assuming I have the answer.

When I seek to understand you, I put my own opinions, beliefs and judgements on hold, and I fully accept you as you are.

I accept where you are in that moment.  If you are upset, I allow you to be upset.  I listen to what your upset is about.  This is not easy to do when I want someone to feel better.

When I listen and accept you as you are, you feel safe, and you will want to share more of yourself with me.

2.  Listening with Words of Empathy.

Saying I love you means I am empathetic.

Empathy says, “How you feel matters to me”, “Go ahead and cry.”  “Tell me about it.”  “I hear what you are saying” “You make sense.”  “I get it.”  “I have been there too.”

Empathy does not say, “What do you have to be sad about?”  “Get over it.”  “Don’t cry.” or “Enough already!”

Empathy is not dismissive, but instead takes the time to sit with you, where you’re at in that moment.

Empathy is patient, and kind.

Empathy does not try to “fix it” or give advice unless advice is asked for.

3.  Listen in Ways that Validate Feelings.

When someone listens with understanding and empathy, we feel validated, and in turn, cared for.

When we are “in the pit,” discouraged, or disheartened, understanding and empathy  validates our experience.

This creates a feeling of acceptance, comfort and calm within.

We feel less alone. Hope is created and somehow our problems do not seem as overwhelming.

Validation comes when a person is willing to just listen without judgment or offering advice.

Listening with words of understanding, empathy, and validation are foundational ingredients that connection, intimacy and healthy relationships are made of.  The next time I’m with someone I love, I am going to ask myself the question, “Am I listening in a way that shows this person they matter to me?”  

I have found in my life, when I feel disconnected from my husband or someone close to me, I am usually unwilling to connect with them in ways that require me to really listen.

Today, I am choosing to set my intention on cultivating love by practicing this language of listening, seeking to understand, show empathy, and validate how they are feeling.  No advice, or fixing allowed.  I am choosing to step aside and trust their process.  Now that calls for another blog post!

And if you ask me, speaking this new language of love is more rewarding (albeit a little more challenging) and meaningful than a dozen roses or a box of chocolates.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyday,

Sheryl

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Stop Trying So Hard

poohquote1Stop what you’re doing.  Take a deep breath and then another.  Relax.  Take the time now to check in with yourself.  What are you feeling?  Where is your tension?  What are you telling yourself is going to happen?  Are you catastrophizing?   Stop.  It is all going to be okay. You have been running around too much today, your mind somewhere else. You do not need to take responsibility for so many things when they do not belong to you.  The fear and anxiety of what will happen if you lay them down.  I know.  It’s scary.  You can do it.  Turn them over.  That’s right, release them.  Surrender.

Matthew 11:28-30 “Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (NLT)

All of these burdens are like boulders in our backpacks that we need to lay down.   Many of them have names.

Fear, Hurt, Anger, Disappointment, Shame, Betrayal, Scarcity…..

If we let them go, then what?  We may not get what we want, but maybe we will get what we need.  Can that be okay?   Maybe there is some plan or purpose we are unable to see.  The less we try to force our way, and our will, the more natural life flows and can fall gently into place.  If we will just allow it to.

It may feel like God has abandoned us.  He hasn’t.  He has been here all along.  He is working it out, in His way, in His time.  He knows.  He hears.  He cares.  So relax.  Take a deep breath.  And know….God wants you.

God, help me to trust enough to let go of the things that I am trying to control and bring my “boulders” and burdens to you.  Help me to believe and know that you love me more than I can imagine and you have me and my concerns in the palm of your hand. 

Grace and Peace,

Sheryl

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No Shame On You

beautiful_nature_wallpaper_1920x1200“Love is patient” 1 Corinthians 13:4

 “Love never gives up” The Message Version

Most of us are familiar with the passage on love from 1 Corinthians Chapter 13.  We hear it used at weddings, funerals, and in sermons.  We see these sentiments on plaques and anniversary cards.  These words can be so cliché that we don’t take the time to ponder the impact they can have on how we relate to others and ourselves.

I was reminded the other day how impatient I can be with myself.  Arriving at a school field trip to the Des Plaines River with my 7th grade daughter,  I had not realized I needed to wear boots and jeans.  I began to beat myself up as they were sharing how muddy it was, that we needed to douse ourselves with insect repellant and to make sure to check for ticks.  When they began to tell us to look out for the poison ivy and oak,  my face felt flushed and my heart began to sink.  I looked at the other Mom’s as they turned and looked concerned at my athletic skirt and cute, new sporty shoes I had just purchased last week!   I was so embarrassed.  I was reading their minds, “Doesn’t she read the parents page?  What an air head!  What was she thinking? How irresponsible!  Wow, and I thought I was disorganized!”  All these critical voices were shouting at me.  I had to remind myself to fight the shame.  Thankfully my daughter’s friend’s Mom(I have always liked her and now I really like her!) ran me by her house to loan me a pair of boots and jeans.  I was so grateful I could have cried.  I was tempted to beat myself up and try to save face by repeating how stupid I felt, but I didn’t.  I reminded myself to be patient with my shortcomings, to practice self-love and acceptance.  I gave myself the grace to make mistakes and learn from them.

Shame is toxic and we are no match for shame on our own.  We need safe, compassionate others to be patient with us on this journey.  We need to give ourselves the love and grace we desperately need when we feel shame rearing its ugly head.  Those of us who grew up being held to a standard of perfection, where criticism lurked when we made mistakes, are especially vulnerable to these shaming messages.  I often have to remind myself to be conscious as I parent my own children to not shame them when I am tempted to do just that.

Today I will choose to be patient with myself,

To love myself,

 To accept myself,

Right where I am today,

I will give myself the freedom to make mistakes,

to make things right when I am wrong,

I will choose to love myself apart from the approval of others,

and commit to giving and receiving the gift of patience and grace towards my shortcomings,

imperfections and inadequacies, knowing who I am is more than enough.

Today I will be tender with myself.

Today I will give myself the grace, compassion and self-love that I deserve.

For I am a child of God and

I am loved.

Grace and Peace,

Sheryl

 

 


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The Power of Relationships

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I love this picture!  I feel happy just looking at it.  Here we are in Wisconsin at the Door County Half Marathon and 5K just a week ago.  I am  in the front row in the pick jacket with the hat with the braids hanging down. You would never know how cold it is because everyone has their jackets off to display our Center for Christian Life t- shirts from our race in December.  I however, was freezing my buns off and wasn’t about to take off my jacket!

When I think about how much I love being a part of this group, it is hard for me to believe how resistant I was to joining. Friends kept at me to come but it took me several years to even consider the idea.   I historically have thought of myself as someone who has a lot of people in my life.  I have been in many groups over the years – growth groups and a Mom’s group.  I have led groups, been in Bible study groups, church groups, and school groups.  This group was different.   I was scared to join this group.  Running brings up a lot for me – insecurities, negative voices and middle school gym class baggage.

I ran my first half marathon about 8 years ago.  I totally trained alone. I didn’t even plan on running it with anyone.  Thankfully I ran into a woman I knew moments before the race started.  Agreeing we would go ahead if one of us felt stronger, I ran the last 3 miles by myself.  Faced with the prospect of joining a running group meant I needed to allow myself to be vulnerable.  What if I couldn’t keep up?  What if I was the last one running way behind?  When running alone, I was able to avoid these questions.  I would need to be open to facing my limiting voices and pushing through the fear to be with others in an area that I did not feel strong.  I also needed to be willing to be last, if that was where I was.  My value and worth is not in how fast or strong I am.  What matters is that I am in the race to learn, grow and challenge myself to dig deeper.

Running is a perfect metaphor for how I live in my life.  I am choosing to believe I am able to do more than I think I can.   Rather than finding I can’t keep up with the other women, I have found that I can keep up with most of the women.  Running with others helps me run faster than when I run alone.  When I am slower, I can ask for others to run with me.  Much to my surprise, I have discovered that others who are faster than me actually want to run with me, just to be with me.  I am stronger than I think I am.  When those voices are yelling at me, “You are weak. You can’t do it!”  I am learning that with others encouraging me, I can press on to do above and beyond what I think I can.  When those voices are shouting, “Quit!  Your knee hurts. Your back aches!”  or “You are not as young as you use to be!”  I am learning to tell the difference between pain where I need to stop and listen to my body and pain that I need to feel and keep going because that is the pain that will stretch and grow me.

486805_10200885304997958_1447418013_nHere is a picture of me at the 6-mile marker.  I am elated!  You would never know by the look on my face that my knee and back are hurting.  The pain is so much sweeter when I have others standing on the sidelines cheering me on, silencing those inner voices that tell me that I am alone.  You would never know that a mile later I would be crying.  The good kind of crying – grateful for my life, my family and the gift to run and push through my limiting voices.

I am so thankful that I pushed through my resistance and decided to become a part of this community.   A community that encourages and supports each other to grow and become stronger, to fight through limiting beliefs and become more than you ever thought you could be.  Running is indeed a great metaphor for my life.  I need relationships that are life giving.  I need to have others who are for me,  on the sidelines cheering, because with others I can accomplish so much more than I think I can.  With others, I can live the abundant life that I desire and was meant to live.

Grace and Peace,

Sheryl


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The Greatest Gift We Can Give

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I just left a friend after pouring my heart out about doubts and insecurities with my own value and self-worth.   I am so grateful for her willingness to simply listen without criticism and judgment.  I didn’t need her to “fix it” or tell me how valuable I was.  I just needed a safe friend to hold space for me in a time of discouragement.  I needed to feel heard and understood.

 I believe this is the most loving gift I can give to others and to myself.   A listening ear and the freedom to express feelings is a priceless offering I want to give to my children, my husband, and to others.  This can be uncomfortable and unfamiliar when I find myself unwilling to accept my own feelings.  I often judge and condemn my feelings or pretend they are not there.  I need to remind myself that there is no right or wrong with feelings.  They are what they are. The gift I can give to myself is the courage to risk opening up and sharing those parts of myself that I want to hide when they are screaming to be heard.  I need grace and compassion from others when I am unable to give it to myself.  I don’t need to be criticized or shamed.  I can do a good enough job with that on my own.  I often just need to get clear around what I am feeling.  At times like these, my thoughts get all jumbled up and I feel like I make no sense.  In these moments I tend to catastrophize.  Sometimes I need to yell and cry.

I love how Brene Brown says it in her book, Daring Greatly, “Empathy is a strange and powerful thing.  There is no script.  There is no right way or wrong way to do it.  It’s simply listening, holding space, with-holding judgment, emotionally connecting, and communicating that incredibly healing message of  ‘You’re not alone’.”

Empathy and understanding is what my family needs most from me.  They need to know I am a safe refuge for them to share themselves vulnerably.  Unfortunately, I have not always done a good job at this.  The more I am willing to be vulnerable with my deep flaws and accept and love myself, the easier it is to accept and love others.    The path of vulnerability is the place where I am learning to heal and find wholeness. When I love and speak truth to these parts of myself  I silence the Critic that lives inside of me.  If I can be a voice of love, acceptance and encouragement to my children when they are feeling ugly, messy and discouraged it will change the course of their lives.

Today when I left my friend, I had a huge weight lifted that was holding me down.  Life no longer feels all doom and gloom.  I am connected to myself again.  My thoughts are no longer all jumbled and I make sense.  Each day I am committed to loving and accepting myself for who I am because that is valuable and I am worth it.  You are too.

Love and Grace,

Sheryl


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What do feelings have to do with it?

Why do we struggle so with feelings?  Often, when I am working with people, I find they are resistant to talking about what they are feeling.  Time and again, when I ask someone new to the world of feelings, what they are feeling, the response is often one of anger and push back.    It is almost as if I asked them what the color of their underwear is.   I once had someone ask me,  “What do feelings have to do with anything?!”  I get it.  Why do feelings matter anyway?  

When I first began to do my own personal growth work, I did not know how I was feeling most of the time.  If you asked me, I was sad a lot but underneath it, I was angry and didn’t even know it.  When we were children, we felt a lot of feelings, anger, sadness, happiness and excitement.  They were as natural as the air we breath, but as time went on, we learned in our families to shut down certain feelings that were not acceptable.  Some of us were shamed for feeling certain feelings.  Some of us experienced anger as scary because people in our families were irresponsible with it.  In the next several blogs, I want to tackle this subject around why feelings are important.  In order to transform our lives and relationships we need to know, accept and work through our feelings.  The result of feeling our feelings can bring us a deeper understanding and love for ourselves and a greater intimacy and connectedness in our relationships.

Here is part of an article written by Peter Bregman, where he talks about the difference it has made in his marriage to acknowledge his feelings…..

Do You Know What You Are Feeling?

“Over the 23 years since we met, my wife Eleanor and I have spent considerable time, money, and energy on our development. Individually and together, we’ve taken workshops, studied meditation, practiced yoga, written in journals, talked about our dreams, participated in training programs, and gone to therapy.

A few weeks ago, we were taking a walk along a rural road, questioning why we do it. Is all this inner work simply navel gazing? Or does it impact our lives in a real way?

Just as we were exploring the question, we turned a bend and heard a loud party at a house on the side of the road. As we approached the house we could see the deck was filled with about a dozen college-aged men joking around and drinking.

My body tensed and my emotions intensified. I felt a mix of fear, insecurity, competitiveness, and jealousy. I saw them as the kinds of guys Eleanor would be attracted to — big, alpha, confident — and I felt inferior. Which made me feel aggressive towards them. It took me about a minute to realize what I was feeling and why.

I turned to Eleanor and told her what I was feeling. She laughed; she also felt aggressive and had an immediate, instinctual, emotional response, but the opposite of mine. She saw them as obnoxious, uncaring, sexist, and unattractive. She felt superior to them. And resentful that they would probably end up having power in our world.

Two seemingly simple but actually incredibly difficult and crucially important things happened in those few seconds: we recognized what we were feeling, and we talked about it.

Simply being able to feel is a feat in itself. We often spend considerable unconscious effort ignoring what we feel because it can be painful. Who wants to be afraid or jealous or insecure? So we stifle the feelings, argue ourselves out of them, or distract ourselves with busy work or small talk.

But just because we don’t recognize a feeling doesn’t mean it goes away. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Not feeling something guarantees that it won’t go away.

Had I not talked to Eleanor about what I was feeling when we saw that deck filled with drinking college guys, I would have gotten clingy to her, looking for some reassurance that she loved me. And, if I had not received it — and why should I since she would have no idea what was going on in my head? — I would have become distant, resentful, and insecure.

But instead, we just laughed and focused on other, more interesting conversation. Apparently, all that navel gazing really does impact our lives in a real way. “

An important part of us – who we are, how we grow, what we want and need, is connected to our feelings.  May we have the faith to believe they matter, and the courage to feel and work through them in order to transform our lives one day at a time.

Grace and peace, Sheryl